how to overcome insomnia, naturally

I have dealt with sleeping issues all of my adult life. And, judging from the amount of times I’ve given advice to people on how to sleep better, a lot of you have sleep issues as well. Recently, I’ve decided to really delve into this issue and make some changes to my lifestyle to address it. I’m studying to become an Ayurvedic Health Counselor, so I thought I’d turn to Ayurveda for some ideas. This blog is a list of things I’ve tried and incorporated into my life that have really worked for me to have a solid night’s sleep. Get ready, this is a long post!

My type of insomnia looks like this: I easily fall asleep, but around 4 am I wake up, and am unable to get back to sleep even though I am so tired. I can get away with this for one or two nights, but the cumulative effect of not getting a full night’s sleep after a few days, weeks and months really starts to take its toll on my energy and overall well being. In Ayurveda, this is considered a disturbance of vata dosha. I’ll be writing more about Ayurveda and doshas in the weeks to come if your not familiar. But basically, vata dosha is related to the elements of ether and air and overall needs calming and grounding.

Ok, so here’s the list of what I do to ensure a full night’s sleep…

Daily Routine

In Ayurveda, keeping a daily routine, or dinacharya, is huge. This means getting up at the same time every day, eating at the same time, getting to bed at the same time. This way your body is conditioned to times of waking up and going to sleep every day, which will result in better sleep. Additionally, eating meals around the same time every day will help you have better digestion. This was hard for me to do at first, especially as I don’t have a regular work schedule.  In Ayurveda school, we learn that the mind loves freedom, and the body loves routine. 

Generally, you should be waking with the sun at sunrise, then getting to bed in time to get you 7-8 hours of sleep.

Light and Early Dinner

I used to eat dinner on the later side, around 7:30 to 8 pm, or even later. On nights that I would eat that late, I would always wake up the next morning feeling groggier than normal. That is because when my body was supposed to be doing detoxifying processes while I slept, it was still digesting my late meal. Now I aim to have eaten dinner by 7 pm. Also, consider making lunch is the biggest meal of your day, and eat a lighter dinner. Some light dinner ideas I enjoy are basmati rice/ quinoa with steamed or sauteed veggies, or a homemade soup.

Create a Night Time Routine

Now, I’ve always been a big believer in having a good morning routine. Until I saw an Ayurvedic practitioner, it didn’t really occur to me to have a night time routine as well. Here is what my night time routine for awesome sleep looks like:

  • No electronics 2 hours before bed – this is usually when I read a book
  • 5 minutes of nadi shodhan (alternate nostril breath) followed by 15 minutes of meditation. I use Insight Timer for meditation and practice a mantra based meditation.
  • I do a brain dump every night – I simply make a list of things I want to remember for the following day. I keep a small journal on my bed side table for this.
  • Keep your bedroom clean and tidy. Create a calming environment. Get rid of any lights in your bedroom, use black tape on top of any electronics that have a light that doesn’t turn off, like an electric toothbrush, air conditioner, etc. I got rid of my clock radio with a digital display. Obviously, no TV in the bedroom!
  • Use a few drops of lavender essential oil on your pillowcase at night, or diffuse lavender oil.
  • Drink a spiced milk or a calming tea – I like good ole chamomile tea. There are a lot of herbal teas on the market now for calming or good sleep, find one you like.
  • Right before bed, rub some sesame oil on your feet. This is a great grounding practice. I have one old pair of socks that I’ll put on right after this so I don’t ruin my sheets.

Cut Out Caffeine

Now, I know this is going to bum out you coffee and tea lovers. If you are drinking coffee and tea daily and having any kind of sleep problem, you should try cutting out caffeine completely. Even that early morning cup of coffee may be affecting your sleep that night. And, if you are waking up in the morning craving the stimulation of a cup of coffee, that is a sign you didn’t get the best quality sleep. I quit drinking coffee about a year ago and I notice I actually have MORE energy in the morning without it. Here are some tips on how to quit drinking coffee if you are addicted to it (which I was!)

Calming Herbs

You can use calming herbs to support deep sleep. Lavender essential oil is great for this, I use a few drops on my pillowcase, or you can diffuse the oil in your bedroom. Chamomile tea is a good calming tea to drink before bed. Nutmeg is also a sedative herb, try making the nutmeg milk recipe below. 

Spiced Milk Recipe

1 cup almond milk (or any milk)

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp cardamom

1 tsp coconut oil

Optional: honey to taste

Bring all ingredients except for honey to boil, then simmer for a few minutes. Take off heat, let cool for a minute or two before stirring in honey.


Easy Weeknight Dinner :: Ramen Noodle Bowls

I am always in search of weeknight dinners that are healthy, easy to throw together and tasty! This ramen bowl recipe is something I’ve found myself making pretty often lately with whatever vegetables I have. It’s light and fresh tasting, with a little saltiness from the miso. The base of this recipe is vegetable broth. You can use store bought, or make your own in your crock pot. Making your own is really simple, and I’ve included directions for that below.

Ramen Noodle Bowl Recipe:

Makes 1 serving

Gather:
2 cups vegetable stock
1 section of ramen noodles, cooked*
1 TBSP miso
2 cups of chopped veggies, your choice (here I used zucchini, carrots and asparagus)
Tamari sauce to taste
Drizzle of sesame oil
*I use the Lotus Foods brand of rice ramen noodles, which I get at Costco
Optional add-ins: chopped tofu, sesame seeds, fresh cilantro

Make:
Bring the vegetable broth to a simmer. Add the vegetables, and cook until veggies are tender – about 10 minutes. Using a ladle, remove 1-2 ladles-full of broth into a small bowl. Add the miso to the small bowl, and whisk until smooth. Then add the miso-broth concoction back to your soup. Add the noodles, top with tamari sauce and sesame oil, and serve!

Crock Pot Veggie Broth Recipe

Makes about 3 quarts

Gather:
1/2 bunch of celery
1 onion
4 carrots
2 bay leaves
3” piece of kombu
1 TBSP minced ginger

Make:
Chop all of the veggies, and put in the crock pot. Fill the crock pot with water, and cook on low all day – 8 hours. This long cooking process will extract all of the nutrients from the vegetables, for a mineral rich broth that is so good for you! Then strain and use! I store the broth in mason jars in the fridge. This broth will keep for about 5 days. Use the broth to cook grains, make soups and stews, or even drink on its own.

You can also save and use your veggie scraps to make a good vegetable broth. I’ve used broccoli stems, cauliflower stems and leaves, ends of carrots and asparagus, onion and carrot peels, etc.



Eat your beets :: with recipe

One root veggie I try to include in my diet is beets. Beets are full of antioxidants, B vitamins, calcium and iron. And, did you know that eating beets can help with athletic performance? Beets have a high amount of nitrates. These are different from the nitrates found in package meats, which are toxic. These good nitrates help your circulation, resulting in more oxygen being delivered into your cells, resulting in increase athletic performance! Another reason I like to include beets in my diet is that it nourishes supports the liver. Our liver is an important organ in our body that helps with our bodies detoxification processes. Try this easy, ready for instant pot, beet soup to get more beets into your diet!

Borscht (Instant Pot Recipe) with Cashew Sour Cream

Gather:
3 beets
2 russet potatoes, chopped
2 chopped carrots
2 chopped celery stalks
2 cups chopped cabbage
1/2 tsp dill
1/2  tsp thyme
1 tsp sea salt
Black  pepper to taste

For the cashew sour cream (optional):
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked in water
Apple cider vinegar to taste (I just add a splash)

Make:
Clean the beets. Put 1 inch of water at the bottom of your instant pot. Put the steamer in the instant pot, then add the beets. Set the pot to steam for 7 minutes – then let sit and release steam for another ten minutes. Let the beets slightly cool, remove the skins (should be super easy) and chop.

Rinse out the instant pot, then add all of the ingredients. Cover with about 2 inches of water. Cook in the Instant Pot on the soup setting for 45 minutes.

To make the sour cream, drain the cashews, then add to a high speed blender. Just scantily cover with water and add a splash of Apple Cider Vinegar. Blend. Adjust by adding water if you need it thinner, or maybe increasing the vinegar.

When the soup is done cooking, let the pressure naturally release for 10 minutes. To serve, ladle the soup into a bowl, then drizzle with the sour cream.


2019 Guiding Word :: Creativity

A few weeks ago I started to share my goals for this year. This year I decided to ditch writing out things I want to do, and instead choose guiding words that I want to manifest throughout 2019. It’s basically just like choosing your theme or themes for the year. My words for 2019 are simplify and creativity. Today I’m focused on the word creativity.

What does it mean to have creativity as a guiding word? For me, its living a more creative life. Growing up, I was always super creative – I especially loved creating things – arts and crafts. In college I studied art. Following that, I worked in the art world for 12 years and had a custom greeting card business at one time. I used to love knitting and sewing and creating new things. I feel like that creativity has started to fade in my life, and I want it back!

Here are some ways I’m going to lead a more creative life this year…

Cooking – I think cooking is such a great way to be creative. One way I will be more creative with cooking this year is baking more. I rarely bake, but I want to get back into making homemade breads, crackers, bars and “healthy” cookies. I’m studying Ayurveda, so I will also be experimenting and creating Ayurvedic recipes.

Movement – One way I express creativity is by creating new yoga sequences to practice and teach. And also by taking different types of classes – both within yoga and outside of yoga. Lately I’ve been taking yoga classes that teach a different alignment of the spine, and I would like to take more nidra and kundalini classes. I would also like to learn and practice tai chi more. And dance more!

Shake Up Your Routine – I think keeping a regular routine is important, but you gotta mix it up sometimes and be spontaneous! Leaving my mindset open to the idea of putting work aside for the night and going out to dinner, live music or even just to chill out is what will be happening this year. Travel is also a great way to break up your routine, and I’ve got some travel planned for 2019.

How do you cultivate creativity in your life? I would love to hear!


2019 Goals

I thought I would share here my goals for 2019 (you know, accountability). This year I decided to ditch writing out things I want to do, and instead choose guiding words that I want to manifest throughout 2019. It’s basically just like choosing your theme or themes for the year. My words for 2019 are simplify and creativity. I’ll be writing a future blog post on creativity, this one is about what simplify means to me.

Simplify means to reduce to basic essentials, streamline and clarify. For me, this means to focus on one thing at time, stay organized and clear on what I’m doing and why and to keep my material possessions decluttered.

Here are some actionable things around simplifying I will be doing this year:

  • Decluttering – I started a major decluttering of my belongings last spring that I am just finishing up now – so I am starting off with a clean slate. I went through my office items, books and clothing and kept only the items that I love and truly use. If you want more information on how to do this, I recommend reading “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo if you haven’t already. What I want to work on for 2019 is being strict with what items I bring into my house, and buying sustainably made, quality goods.
  • Keeping a Daily Routine – Having a daily routine is a huge part of Ayurveda, which I am currently studying – in Ayurveda it’s called Dinacharya. Having a daily routine where you wake up, eat and go do bed (and more) at the same time everyday helps simplify your life by taking out all of the choices on how to spend your time. It is also essential for good health, as your body loves having a regular eating and sleeping time every day. I’ll be writing a blog post on Dinacharya soon, but until then, here is a good article to get you started. I’ve already incorporated this into my life, but I need to get back on track with this, especially being in bed by 9:30 pm.

  • Organizing – I’m naturally a pretty organized person, but there are a few areas of my life where I could use some help. Those are finances, scheduling, and keeping track of tasks. I’ve decided to try keeping a bullet journal this year, which should help with the scheduling and keeping track of tasks. If you’ve never heard of bullet journaling, you can find many videos on YouTube. I’ve also noted in my journal a day during the week that I balance my accounts. I know it seems strange that just keeping a planner would help simplify, but I have an irregular schedule that is a cause of stress in my life.

Anyhow, I hope you found this interesting! Do you have guiding words for 2019? If so, please leave a comment with your guiding words.


January Sale!

Happy New Year!

Is one of your goals to work on your health and nutrition? You are in luck! For the month of January, I have discounted my 3 month Wellness Warrior private coaching program by $100. You can learn more about working with a Holistic Nutrition Coach, and what is included in my coaching programs here.

I wish you all a healthy and happy new year! Next week I’ll be sharing my guiding words for 2019.


Chai Tea Recipe

Do you love the aromatic and spicy smell and taste of chai tea – but hate the huge amount of added sugar that’s usually included in most pre-made chai’s today? Try this recipe for a caffeine free, warming chai tea. Because this has no caffeine, it is the perfect night-time beverage to drink while being comfy on your couch. One batch will last you several servings, and it will make your house smell amazing while making it. I have also made extra large batches and given quart mason jars of it as gifts.

Gather:
10 cloves
12 peppercorns
3 sticks cinnamon
15 cardamom pods, smashed
8 thin slices of ginger
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp vanilla powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 star anise pod (optional)

Make:
Fill a large soup pot with the spices and as much water as you want… I usually make a large batch using a few quarts of water. Bring the water to boil, cover, and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Strain and serve as is or with some almond milk and/or raw honey. Leftover tea will keep in the fridge for a week.


What to eat for fall (with recipe)

Well, it’s been a bit since I’ve posted here. I’ve recently started a 2-3 year program to become an Ayurvedic practitioner. I’ll be sharing a lot more about that at a later time, but basically Ayurveda is an 5,000 year old system of health and wellness that originated in India. Needless to say, school had been a lot of time and a lot of work that I am just now starting to get in front of. They say that learning Ayurveda is like trying to drink water out of a firehouse, and they are right!

We are definitely in the thick of fall here in Colorado. The air is cold and dry, and all of the leaves have fallen. Thanksgiving and the holidays are right around the corner. This is the time of year to indulge in all of the fruits and vegetables that in season in the fall. The fruits and vegetables that are in season in your area are the ones that will be the freshest and tastiest, and have the nutrients your body needs for this time of year.

Fall just happens to supply some of my favorite fruits and veggies! First, all of the winter squash like butternut, buttercup, delicata, kabocha, acorn, spaghetti, and pumpkin of course. This is also a good time for sweet potatoes, parsnips, potatoes, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and beets. There are some delicious fruits in season now too, like apples, pears and pomegranates. Some of you might be lucky enough to live where persimmons are in season too.

As the weather gets colder and the air gets drier, this is the time to focus on making meals that are warming and hydrating, like soups and stews. Below is a simple recipe for a sweet potato lentil stew. Oatmeal is wonderful choice for breakfast.  Be sure to include lots of warming spices into your meals like cinnamon, cloves and turmeric. At this time of year, try to avoid cold food and beverages like smoothies made with frozen fruit, raw salads and cold water. Instead of drinking cold water, sip on warm or hot water or herbal tea. If you notice your digestion is sluggish try adding some fresh ginger to your food, or drink a ginger tea.

In addition to eating warming foods and seasonal produce, I have a few other fall tips for health and happiness. First, if you find your house is dry from heating, use a humidifier. I like to use a few drops of grape seed oil in my humidifier for antimicrobial properties. This may seem obvious, but be sure that you are dressing warmly for both outdoor activities, and time spent indoors. I find that my body does best with cold weather if I spend time outdoors everyday. My dog Rosco and I go for a one hour walk everyday. Finally, this is the time of year that colds and flues go around. I like to be prepared for this by stocking up on elderberry supplements, throat coat and breathe easy herbal teas, manuka honey throat lozenges.

Recipe: Sweet Potato Lentil Stew

IMG-03641 tbsp coconut oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 medium size sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup of lentils, soaked in water overnight*
32 fl oz container of organic vegetable broth**
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
Pinch of fennel seeds
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, melt the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the diced onions, and saute until the onions are soft, about 5-10 minutes. Add all of the spices except the salt and pepper, stir and cook for another 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, drain the rinse the lentils.

Add the lentils and sweet potatoes to the onions, and stir. Cook for one minute. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer, and cook covered with a lid for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid, and cook for another 10-15 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve or its own, or over a bed of quinoa or basmati rice.

*can skip this, but the stew may take longer to cook
**or substitute with 4 cups of water


Two easy salad dressing recipes

salad-498203_1280

We all know that a good salad dressing can elevate any salad. What can make your salad dressing taste even more fresh and delicious is to make your own at home. Home-made salad dressing are more delicious without all of the added preservatives. Below I’ve got 2 basic salad dressing recipes that can be customized by adding additional herbs and spices. These recipes will keep for 4-5 days sealed in your refrigerator.

Basic Vinaigrette Dressing:
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
Fresh ground black pepper
Pinch of Celtic Sea Salt
Whisk to combine.

Lemon-Tahini Dressing:
2 tbsp tahini
1 garlic clove
3 tbsp lemon juice
Pinch of Celtic Sea Salt
Approx 1/3 cup filtered water.
Blend.


How to make an herbal tonic

IMG-0268Something I’ve become very interested this year is making herbal tonics. I use herbs that have a healing effect on the body. I’ve always enjoyed herbal tea, so when I saw people start sharing their herbal tonics on social media, I knew I had to give it a try. They are very easy to make. I’m not an expert on herbalism, if you are looking for more information there is a lot you can find online.

First select your herb or herbal blend. I use organic loose leaf dried herbs that I get at either amazon.com or Mountain Rose Herbs. These are some my favorite herbs to use – along with just a few of their healing properties:

  • Hibiscus – My very favorite, has a sour  taste and a beautiful red hue. Good for skin, vitamin C, anti-inflammatory and very healing for the liver.
  • Nettle – Bitter taste – helps with immunity, anti-inflammatory, helps with seasonal allergies, detoxifying.
  • Raspberry leaf – wonderful for women’s health. Helps balance hormones, good for immunity and anti-inflammatory.
  • Oatstraw – grassy/sweet flavor, great for brain health
  • Rosehips – The fruit of a rose plant, has a tart flavor. Great for skin, high in Vitamin C, anti-inflammatory.
  • Chamomile – Floral taste – promotes immunity and digestive health.
  • Burdock – Very bitter taste. I only really use burdock when I am having menstrual cramps, it really helps! Also a good detoxifier.

To make the tonic, I use a standard size french press (I purchase a cheap on off of amazon just for tonics). Then I will either just use one herb, or more often create a blend. To create my blend, I just use my intuition to decide what I’m using. I love the taste of hibiscus, and almost always use it in my blends. You can also find many combinations online. (Hibiscus Raspberry leaf blend shown in photos).

IMG-0269

Add 1/4 – 1/2 cups of herbs (total amount) to your french press. Bring water to boil, let it sit for a few minutes, then add to your press. You want hot, but not boiling, water. Fill the french press, put the top on, but do not press the plunger down. Let it sit like this at least 8 hours – I usually let it sit more like 24 hours. Then push the press down and you have your tonic. You can jazz it up with lime or lemon juice. A lot of people will also add stevia to sweeten, but I prefer mine bitter tasting and have gotten use to the taste.